Ancestors, anyone?

My best friend’s husband has been interested in his family genealogy for a number of years, so this past Yule she bought him a subscription to ancestry.com. She then convinced me that I should use their account to build my own tree because “it’s so much fun!”
 
 Fun. Yes, it’s certainly a lot of fun. It’s also frustrating as all get out and addicting as well. My mother’s cousin had done a family tree a number of years ago for my grandfather’s side of the family. She’s had much more luck with that side of the family than I’ve had. I can get back to my 3X great-grandfather who was the first to come over from France, but there the trail ends for me. Meanwhile, she traced us back to the Alsace region of France and into Murano Italy where, apparently, we were glass-blowers. When I’m ready to take up the search on that side again I’ll have to ask her for a few hints.

My grandmother’s side, however, has uncovered a wealth of information I had never even dreamed of. Starting her tree, all I had was her name, her parent’s names, and the place she was born because she wasn’t one to talk about her family. After just a few days of searching through records, her family history opened up to me like a flower.

Just last week I found a branch which is (very) tentatively linked to the royal monarchies of England and France. Because of name changes and poor record-keeping I can’t prove the connection, but it seems likely that I am a direct descendent of the Plantagenets starting with Anne of Gloucester and going all the way back to Geoffry V. If this link is true, then I’m a many time great-granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman I have been fascinated with for many years.

However, that isn’t the most exciting part of my tree. What makes me smile the most are the stories closer to home. My relation to Lieutenant Samuel Smith who was one of the founders of both Hadley, MA and Wethersfield, CT and his son Lieutenant Phillip Smith who, according to Cotton Mather, was “murdered with a hideous witchcraft”. There’s also William Osgood who was one of the first three Osgoods to emigrate to America in the 1630’s. His home on Congress St. in Salisbury, MA is still lived in by his descendents. And Edward Melcher who was a member of a rescue party sent to retrieve the bodies of a family killed in a landslide – he was the only one to make it back and he wrote a book about his experience titled “A sketch of the destruction of the Willey family by the White Mountain slide on the night of August 28, 1826“.

And then, there’s the period in the late 1700’s – early 1800’s where the tree starts to look a bit like a pretzel because two families in New Hampshire inter-married so often. And the photocopies of my great-grandfathers’ WWI and WWII draft registrations. And the story of how my 3X great-grandfather was a POW during the Civil War and died in a Confederate prison.

There’s really nothing like combing through hundreds of records looking for the just the right one that will lead to another and another and another.

Do any of you have any famous relatives? Or even just relatives who led interesting lives?

Ana

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7 responses to “Ancestors, anyone?

  1. Wow, that’s some interesting lineage Ana. Mine is mysterious in that I’m first generation Chinese in Canada, and my parents really didn’t reveal much to me of their past – even my grandfather who was the first one here kept his history secretive for the most part.
    It’s almost like they preferred to keep the past in the past, so I respect that, and must say I haven’t much probed into it. Maybe one day …
    eden

  2. Awesome lineage, Ana! On my mother’s side, I’m descended from an ancient line of Norse royalty, and one of my distant cousins wrote Norway’s most famous Christmas carol. (He claimed to have been inspired by fairies. Go figure.)

    Don’t know much about Dad’s side before they came across the Atlantic, but I did have a great-something uncle who ran hooch for Al Capone during prohibition and another great-something uncle who was a beat cop in Golden Gate Park during the Depression and supplemented the family’s mealplan by duck hunting while on duty. 😀

    • We can be princesses together, Lisa! 😀

      Also, your family sounds awesome as well. This sort of makes me wish I knew anything at all about my father so I could trace his tree back as well just to find out what’s there.

  3. Family trees can be a hoot. I work them out on characters sometimes back to grandparents maybe great grandparents, just to get a better handle on a character.

    I have looked at a couple of different family trees about my family, some go back to Europe, some get muddy back around the time of the Civil War. I had an aunt who got upset because we had a horse thief in the family. I reminded her that we were of Celtic decent and back then cattle stealing was a way of life and a badge of honor. 😉

    Wally

    • *laughs* Wally, your family sounds awesome as well. Cattle rustling for the win! 😉

      Also, I know exactly what you mean about things getting muddied. There are a number of lines that I lose track of as soon as they leave the States. That’s one of the most frustrating parts of this.

  4. I have stayed away from ancestor.com exactly because I know it would be too addicting. We did come across a diary by my paternal great, great grandmother that goes back to Napoleonic Germany. That portion of the family were apparently quite wealthy. However, because they were forced to convert their fortune to Napoleonic francs, their money became worthless after his defeat a Waterloo. All the rest of us were either farmers, millers or furniture makers.

    My wife’s family is much more interesting. Her cousin, the poet Nicolaos Kavvadias, is regarded as a Greek national treasure. Her paternal uncle, Gerasimos Kavvadias, former parliamentarian and president of the National Drug Organization—the Greek FDA—was Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou’s best man.

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